Coroner calls for urgent review into Halifax's North Bridge to prevent suicides

North Bridge in Halifax
North Bridge in Halifax

A Coroner has called for an urgent review of North Bridge and has asked Calderdale Council to consider immediate safety measures and a longer-term plan.

The suicide rate in Calderdale between 2014 and 2016 was 11.3 per 100,000 people, which is slightly higher than the national average of 9.9 per 100,000. There have been three suicides on North Bridge in the last year.

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Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Inequalities, Councillor Faisal Shoukat said: “Suicide can have devastating impacts on friends, family, work colleagues and the local community, and our thoughts are with anyone affected by this tragedy.

"It’s estimated that up to 135 people can be affected by a single suicide. We take this very seriously and continue to work with other organisations as part of the Suicide Prevention Group to help reduce the rate in Calderdale.”

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Cabinet Members will consider a number of options to reduce accessibility to the parapets.

These include the use of heras fencing as an immediate, temporary measure, plus the installation of anti-climb mesh along the bridge and coverings on top of the parapets in the longer-term.

The long-term option reflects the method used on the Hebble Viaduct above North Bridge. The estimated cost would be about £200,000 and it could take around a year to complete the work.

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Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins, added: “The Council has a vital role in preventing suicide. In addition to the range of actions being taken by the Suicide Prevention Group, such as supporting people at risk, we need to reduce the ability to climb North Bridge and introduce safety measures to prevent further fatalities.

"Research evidence shows that preventing access can reduce suicides.”

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When North Bridge was built in 1871, there were no standards for the height and type of bridge parapets to be used. The existing parapets are higher than they would be if we built the bridge now.

Subject to Cabinet approving any action, the Council would consult with local people and organisations about the proposed safety measures.

North Bridge is Grade II listed, meaning it’s of special architectural or historic interest. Therefore, any work that affects its historic character needs listed building consent as well as planning permission.

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Measures at North Bridge would build on the work of Calderdale’s Suicide Prevention Group, which brings together the Council and partners including the NHS, Police and voluntary organisations.

Its long-term target is to reduce the number of suicides to zero in Calderdale.

Last year the group launched its Suicide Prevention Plan, which includes providing better information and support for high-risk groups of people, reducing access to the means of suicide and continuing to improve understanding of suicide.

Last year the group put up Samaritans signs on North Bridge to encourage people to seek help.